Are You a Triathlete or a Body Builder?

By Todd Wiley and Fernando Paredes

Triathlon Training

I always tell my athletes you must train your CORE to perform as a triathlete. The successful ones do it right, the unsuccessful, not that great. Since I’m not an expert on exercise training for fitness and performance, let me introduce you to my go-to guy in this area, fitness and performance expert Fernando Paredes. Here’s what he had to say in a recent conversation I had with him about core training for triathletes. Listen to what he has to say here, I think you’ll find it very useful in your training.

In my 16 years of experience as a fitness and performance trainer, and working with triathletes over the past 6 years, I’ve learned a lot about what separates those that perform and achieve from those that fail and get repeated injuries.

Most Triathletes…
• Train like bodybuilders
• Train too much
• Train their core totally wrong

The first training problem is the main one because it leads to the other two issues. So the focus of this article will be on problem one. I see it all the time, triathletes doing heavy or very intense leg extensions, bench presses, laterals, crunches, hyperextensions, etc, essentially training like bodybuilders, and expecting to increase their triathlon performance, race times, placing and reduce injury.

This type of bodybuilding training does NOT match the triathletes goal. All it does is create imbalanced bodies, reinforce bad mechanics and increase likelihood of injuries. It’s not the triathletes fault. They only follow the so-called ‘expert’ advice on how to get strong. Strength equals better performance and less injury and you get stronger by lifting weights, right?

Wrong. All depends on what your goal is.

Triathletes goals, to run faster, bike faster, swim faster, are all performance objectives. To develop the strength, stability and mobility needed to perform at a gruelingly high level and stress-proof their body so they don’t get hurt in the process is the triathlete’s goal. The bodybuilder’s goal is to build many sculpted muscle.

(That’s it folks. Nothing else.)

Do you see any similarities? Any shared goals? Neither do I. If you don’t see any similar goals, why are most of you following a bodybuilder’s type of training program and then expect to achieve results that you have not been training for in the first place? Now, will building sculpted muscle make you stronger to run, bike and swim better? Maybe. Another thing bodybuilding training will also do for a triathlete is undoubtedly reduce the flexibility, stability and overall mobility you will need to compete and increase your likelihood of injury.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not at all putting down bodybuilding training. I have been a fan for years. And there are bodybuilders that have tremendous athletic ability. Most do some kind of extra training to attain it though. Why? Bodybuilding only training doesn’t develop athletic ability!

Please my friends, stop ruining your bodies and begin training under the type of program your body needs to perform at a high athletic level.

A Triathlete’s Guide to Strength and Core Training

First, get tested by a qualified trainer fully schooled in screening and assessing body structure, functional and core capacities. Better yet, find a trainer qualified to perform a Functional Movement Screen (FMS) to uncover any areas of your body that are hindering it’s ability to work properly. This will help get you firing on all cylinders fast.

Next, understand that all movement begins at a neuromuscular level from the core of the body. By working the body from the center out is so important for all athletes, but especially in triathletes because of competing in multiple events at such a grueling pace.

Your exercise program must therefore emphasize mid-core training involving trunk stability and trunk rotation from various vertical base positions and angles. Lower-core training in single-leg stances and upper-core training that emphasizes shoulder mobility, shoulder girdle stability and total body contra-lateral exercises. The most important key to all this is having it all customized to fit your specific body structure and performance level.

For example, proper exercises that fit in a training program to increase a triathlete’s performance may include, but not limited to, the following:
• Dynamic planks on floor or stability ball in various positions
• Cable rotations from various angles in standing and kneeling positions
• Pullover flys on bench or stability ball
• Indian club swinging in various motions and angles
• Single-Leg: squats, toe touches, leg curls on stability ball

And topping it all off with body specific musculo-facial stretching and foam rolling to alleviate overuse patterns and muscle imbalances incurred from all the repetitive motions you have to perform with your bike, run and swim training. This type of program will build balanced muscles that will perform at a high level for you and translate into lower chances of injury.

So are you a triathlete or a bodybuilder? If you’re a triathlete that has been doing bodybuilding training to prepare for triathlon events, you now have a simple guide you can use to transition into the correct type of training that I guarantee will make a huge difference in your success.

It’s worked amazingly well with my triathlete clients for years and it’ll work for you too.

Fernando ParedesFernando Paredes NASM-CPT, CES, PES, FMS2, is a sought after fitness and performance expert in the greater Bucks/Phila region. He has successfully trained Triathletes of various levels from beginners to elite-level IRONMAN competitors and been featured on Comcast Network’s Your Morningshow, It’s Your Call with Lynn Doyle, WFMZ Channel 69 News, CBS/CW Philly and The Philadelphia Inquirer because of his innovative Core-to-Strength exercise approach. For more info visit Fusion Fitness Studio on Facebook.


Todd WileyTodd Wiley is a former Elite Level Athlete and a lifelong triathlete. Todd has been involved in Triathlon in multiple capacities, a Team In Training triathlon coach, USA Triathlon Regional Athlete Development Coordinator, and a current Race Director. He is also a successful coach and you can find out more about Todd by visiting


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